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Roving with Rover

What to Know When Taking Your Pet on Vacation

by Sonya N. Nikadie

Everything is perfect: you have vacation leave from your boss, and you’ve spent many delicious hours planning where you’ll be going on your annual holiday. But what to do with Rover, your trusty mutt? You're too in love with him to leave him at a boarding kennel while you’re away, but is it really possible to have a somewhat decent holiday with doggie in tow? You bet.

Getting Prepped

Weeks before departure, talk to your vet to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and relevant to the area of the country you’ll be traveling to. Those traveling in the northeast, for instance, are advised to protect their dogs against Lyme disease, which is endemic to the area. If your dog is vaccinated against rabies, make sure he wears an identifying tag. If he does happen to bite someone, that tag will at least ease the victim’s mind. Don’t forget to also put your telephone number on your dog’s collar, just in case you get separated somewhere along the way.

Vacations aren’t only about where you’ll be sleeping, naturally. Before leaving for your trip, the Internet is the surest way of finding out what attractions and activities you can participate in once you reach your destination. But once you get there, be sure to pick up a local paper or two to find something local going on that the whole family (including Rover) can enjoy.

Where to Stay?

Accommodation is generally the first thing people worry about when considering traveling with their pets. But luckily, you don't have to stay in campgrounds just because you have a furry friend with you. Visit or to draw up a list of hotels that'll accept your canine pal, molting hair and all. More and more establishments are starting to accept pets as guests and it’s now surprisingly easy to find accommodation. It’s best to book ahead, but if you’re a more casual sort of traveler, take along a good list of hotels (and back-up hotels, pet-friendly hotels fill up too) you can try along the way.

Don’t be alarmed if the area you’re traveling to doesn’t have a hotel that describes itself as pet-friendly. Some hotels, even high-end ones, may accept smaller pets on request, but they’ll usually require you to pay a deposit first to insure against any pet-related damage that could occur.

There are several things you can do to make the hotel stay pleasant. Don't forget to take plenty of plastic bags for poop-scooping — just because a hotel is dog-friendly doesn't mean the poop will be taken care of! Take several toys to keep Rover occupied in the hotel room, especially if you have an overactive puppy. You don't want to find the hotel bedspread chewed to pieces when you come back from dinner.

If there are separation-anxiety issues (your dog’s, not yours!) it can help to leave the television on while you’re away from the room. The noise will help keep Rover company and might distract him from indulging in less desirable behavior.

Often hotels won’t accept dogs that bark a lot ­– if yours is a big talker, think about getting a citronella collar first to discourage his vocal tendencies. You wouldn’t want to have to sleep next door to a barking dog, so be sure to do your best to keep yours quiet.

Take a Hike

Hiking is a way to keep everyone happy. Find a park that allows dogs to run off-leash and frolic to their heart's content. Be sure to pack a drink container. Your dog will require more water than you, something you'll see for yourself once Rover scampers off in the chase for falling leaves or mysterious noises in the forest. Take a handful of treats too – sometimes in the excitement of a new area to explore, the only way to get your best friend to come back to you is if you have something yummy-smelling to offer him.

Many dogs head for water at the first opportunity, and if this is your experience, take along a towel to dry your dog off before he bounces back into the car. A wet, smelly animal does not a good traveling companion make!

If your vacation is more about the journey and less about the destination, it’s worthwhile investing in a dog restrainer (similar to a seatbelt) to keep Rover safe through all those driving miles. Be sure to open a window or two (the dog version of coloring books) and turn a blind eye to the slobber running down the door. Sometimes it’s all just too exciting and he’s just letting you know he’s having a great time!

Dogs get hot in cars very easily, so make sure you have a stable bowl filled with water to keep him hydrated and cool. Keep a leash handy, preferably hanging by the door, so at gas stops one of you can lead Rover to a nice patch of grass while the other fills up the tank. Dogs get restless too, so a short break every couple of hours or so will do wonders for their spirits — and yours too.

Whether you’re holidaying with a dog, a cat, or some other kind of pet, just remember: the key to a great vacation is preparation. Having your furry friend with you will add that special something to your holiday that is well worth the extra planning.

Packing Tips
Here’s a quick list of the essentials and good-to-haves when on a road trip with your favorite pet.

• treats
• water bowl
• water container (for hikes)
• towel
• toys
• crate (for those who can’t be trusted not to tear up hotel furniture!)

The following websites offer guides to pet-friendly accommodations.